New Technology May Further Improve Gas Mileage
As part of continuing efforts to mitigate rising fuel costs, Chicago Transit Authority officials today said they are evaluating a new hybrid electric bus that has the ability to nearly double the miles per gallon of current CTA hybrid buses. The DesignLine ECOSaver IV Hybrid Electric bus – which is being loaned to CTA – uses an innovative propulsion technology that is different from the existing hybrid drives.
CTA's Budget Office calculates that every $0.10 change in the price per gallon of fuel increases expenses by $2.4 million. With fuel prices at $4.53 per gallon as of May 26, the CTA could potentially accrue fuel expenses of $25 million over what was budgeted this year. As a result, the CTA is actively researching fuel efficient vehicles to introduce into the fleet. The CTA's oldest buses average 2.77 miles per gallon and its 40-foot hybrid buses average 3.95 miles per gallon. The DesignLine Hybrid has averaged seven to eight miles per gallon in other cities and the test period will help determine if the buses will run as effectively in Chicago.
"We are looking forward to the opportunity to test drive this new hybrid electric bus to see how it handles the streets of Chicago and to compare its fuel efficiency to our current hybrid buses," said CTA President Ron Huberman. "Energy efficiency, whether fuel for buses or electricity for trains, is critical for our operations as we continue to find ways to minimize costs. It also has a positive impact on the environment."
"Chicago is always leading by example when it comes to finding innovative and environmentally-friendly ways to improve the quality of life for our residents," said Mayor Richard M. Daley. "Finding solutions to handle the rising cost of fuel is important for our public transportation system and we're looking forward to trying this new technology."
The CTA fleet currently has 20 hybrid buses – 10 operate on a parallel system and 10 use a series drive system. An additional 150 New Flyer Hybrid articulated buses on order will operate on the parallel system. The DesignLine Hybrid is different from the existing hybrid drives and can increase fuel economy by 100% over standard buses and 25% over other hybrids.
The ECOSaver uses batteries to run an electric motor rather than the standard diesel engine of CTA's current hybrids. When the batteries lose power, a small turbine engine turns on to recharge the batteries. The turbine engine shuts down as the batteries continue to power the bus. This hybrid configuration produces lower emissions than other hybrids and also reduces noise pollution.
Increased fuel economy is gained from the turbine's smaller size (45 hp versus 285 hp for a standard bus engine) and because the engine is not running continuously. In addition, the construction of the bus is three tons lighter to further increase fuel savings.
The DesignLine Electric Hybrid bus offers reduced emissions, improved fuel economy, reduced noise pollution, increased passenger comfort and lower maintenance costs.
The DesignLine ECOSaver Electric Hybrid bus is manufactured by DesignLine International LLC headquartered in North Carolina and costs approximately $580,000. CTA's current 40-foot hybrids cost approximately $570,000 each and a regular diesel bus cost between $350,000 and $375,000 each.
In May 2007, the CTA bus fleet averaged 2.76 mpg, accumulated more than 6.17 million miles and used nearly 2.23 million gallons of ultra low sulfur diesel fuel. In May 2008, the fleet's average miles per gallon improved to 3.27 and fuel consumption decreased by 335,500 gallons to 1.89 million gallons.
Other energy efficiency measures already in progress at the CTA include accelerating the purchase of 150 articulated hybrid buses manufactured by New Flyer Industries.
In addition, before completing its order for 400 low-emission 40-foot buses from New Flyer of America, Inc., the CTA was able to reduce the weight of these new buses by approximately 1,000 lbs. By switching from a stainless steel chassis to carbon steel and by using a smaller, more efficient engine, the gas mileage increased from 3.18 mpg to 3.28 mpg. Each of the 400 buses is expected to average 40,000 miles per year in travel making the annual savings in fuel costs more than $565,000, just by operating a lighter vehicle.
Furthermore, because the newer buses are 20% more fuel efficient than the buses they are replacing, the total savings to the CTA over the anticipated 12-year life span of the buses is nearly $80 million. The CTA began taking delivery of the new low emission buses earlier this year, with 110 currently in service, and expects to have all 400 by spring 2009.
Combined, the CTA expects that these steps will save $91.5 million over the 12-year average life of the buses compared to the costs to operate the current fleet of buses.
CTA also encourages those who still drive to join in the American Public Transit Association's "Dump the Pump Day" on Thursday, June 19. The day is designed to encourage people across the country to ride public transportation to save money, conserve gasoline and help reduce greenhouse gases.
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